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Encyclopedia > Moral relativism

In philosophy, moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. Moral relativists hold that no universal standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth; moral subjectivism is thus the opposite of moral absolutism. Relativistic positions often see moral values as applicable only within certain cultural boundaries (cultural relativism) or in the context of individual preferences (moral subjectivism). An extreme relativist position might suggest that judging the moral or ethical judgments or acts of another person or group has no meaning, though most relativists propound a more limited version of the theory. For other uses, see Philosophy (disambiguation). ... Morality (from the Latin manner, character, proper behavior) has three principal meanings. ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... It has been suggested that Moral realism be merged into this article or section. ... For the physics theory with a similar name, see Theory of Relativity. ... For other uses, see Society (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Culture (disambiguation). ... This article is about the study of the past in human terms. ... For other uses, see Person (disambiguation). ... Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical belief that all ethical sentences reduce to factual statements about the attitudes of individuals. ... Moral absolutism is the belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act. ... Value is a term that expresses the concept of worth in general, and it is thought to be connected to reasons for certain practices, policies or actions. ... Cultural relativism is the principle that beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture. ... Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical belief that all ethical sentences reduce to factual statements about the attitudes of individuals. ...


Some moral relativists — for example, the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre — hold that a personal and subjective moral core lies or ought to lie at the base of individuals' moral acts. In this view public morality reflects social convention, and only personal, subjective morality expresses true authenticity. Existentialism is the philosophical movement positing that individual human beings create the meaning and essence of their lives as persons. ... Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980), normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre (pronounced: ), was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. ... This article is in need of attention. ... The moral core of an individual is the extent to which that person will apply his or her notions of morality. ... Morality (from the Latin manner, character, proper behavior) has three principal meanings. ... This page deals with authenticity in philosophy. ...


Moral relativism differs from moral pluralism — which acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices, but accepts limits to differences, such as when vital human needs are violated. Moral relativism, in contrast, grants the possibility of moral judgments that do not accept such limits. Value-pluralism is the idea that two or more moral values may be equally ultimate (true), yet in conflict. ...

Philosophy Portal

In popular culture people often describe themselves as "morally relativist," meaning that they are accepting of other people's values and agree that there is no one "right" way of doing some things. However, this actually has little to do with the philosophical idea of relativism; relativism does not necessarily imply tolerance, just as moral objectivism does not imply intolerance. These people's moral outlook can be explained from both theoretical frameworks. Image File history File links Socrates. ...

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History

Commentators may describe relativism as a temporal idea of the "new" that conflicts with objective moral standards supplied by tradition. Moral relativism, however, encompasses views and arguments that people in some cultures have held for a very long time, such as the ancient Jaina Anekantavada principle of Mahavira (c. 599 – 527 BC) and the ancient Taoist writings of Zhuangzi (4th century BC). Jaina Solo (b. ... Anekantavada is a basic principle of Jainism dealing with the fact that reality may be percieved diferently from different points of views. ... Idol of Lord Mahavira at Shri Mahaveerji (the holy town in Rajasthan named after Mahavira. ... For other uses of the words tao and dao, see Dao (disambiguation). ... Zhuangzi (Traditional: 莊子; Simplified: 庄子, Pinyin: Zhuāng Zǐ, Wade-Giles: Chuang TzÅ­, lit. ...


History records relativist positions over several thousand years. The assertion by Protagoras (c. 481 – 420 BC) that "man is the measure of all things" provides an early philosophical precursor to modern relativism. The Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 – 420 BC) observed that each society regards its own belief system and way of doing things as the best, in contrast to that of others. Various ancient philosophers also questioned the idea of an objective standard of morality. Protagoras (in Greek Πρωταγόρας) was born around 481 BC in Abdera, Thrace in Ancient Greece. ... Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: HÄ“rodotos Halikarnāsseus) was a Greek historian from Ionia who lived in the 5th century BC (ca. ...


In the early modern era Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677) notably held that nothing is inherently good or evil. The 18th-century Enlightenment philosopher David Hume (1711 - 1776) serves in several important respects as the father both of modern emotivism and of moral relativism, though Hume himself did not espouse relativism. He distinguished between matters of fact and matters of value, and suggested that moral judgments consist of the latter, for they do not deal with verifiable facts obtained in the world, but only with our sentiments and passions. But Hume regarded some of our sentiments as universal. He famously denied that morality has any objective standard, and suggested that the universe remains indifferent to our preferences and our troubles. Baruch Spinoza Benedictus de Spinoza (November 24, 1632 _ February 21, 1677), named Baruch Spinoza by his synagogue elders and known as Bento de Spinoza or Bento dEspiñoza in the community in which he grew up. ... This article is about the philosopher. ... Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical statements (such as Killing is wrong) do not assert propositions; that is to say, they do not express factual claims or beliefs and therefore are neither true nor false (they are not truth-apt). ...


In the modern era, anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict (1887 – 1948) cautioned observers against ethnocentricism — using the standards of their own culture to evaluate their subjects of study. Benedict said that morals do not exist — only customs do; and that in comparing customs, the anthropologist "insofar as he remains an anthropologist . . . is bound to avoid any weighting of one in favor of the other". To some extent, the increasing body of knowledge of great differences in belief among societies caused both social scientists and philosophers to question whether any objective, absolute standards pertaining to values could exist. This led some to posit that differing systems have equal validity, with no standard for adjudicating among conflicting beliefs. The Finnish philosopher-anthropologist Edward Westermarck (1862 – 1939) ranks as one of the first to formulate a detailed theory of moral relativism. He portrayed all moral ideas as subjective judgments that reflect one's upbringing. He rejected G.E. Moore's (1873 – 1958) ethical intuitionism — in vogue during the early part of the 20th century, and which identified moral propositions as true or false, and known to us through a special faculty of intuition — because of the obvious differences in beliefs among societies, which he said provided evidence of the lack of any innate, intuitive power. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Ethnocentrism (Greek ethnos nation + -centrism) is a set of beliefs or practices based on the view that ones own group is the center of everything. ... Edward Alexander Westermarck (November 20, 1862 - September 3, 1939) was a Finnish philosopher and sociologist. ... George Edward Moore George Edward Moore, also known as G.E. Moore, (November 4, 1873 - October 24, 1958) was a distinguished and hugely influential English philosopher who was educated and taught at the University of Cambridge. ... This article needs cleanup. ...


Philosophical views

Moral relativism generally stands in marked contrast to moral absolutism, moral objectivism, moral realism, and moral naturalism, which all maintain the existence of moral facts: facts that entities can both know and judge, whether through some process of verification or through intuition. An example includes the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), who saw man's nature as inherently good. Other moral objectivist believe that humankind can derive moral knowledge from external sources such as a deity or revealed doctrines. Some hold that moral facts inhere in nature or reality. In each case, however, moral facts remain invariant, though the circumstances to which they apply may differ. Moreover, each of these schools of thought sees moral facts as objective and determinable. Moral absolutism is the belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act. ... It has been suggested that Moral realism be merged into this article or section. ... Moral realism is the view in philosophy that there are objective moral values. ... Moral naturalism is a form of cognitivism derived from applying evolutionary game-theory to ethics. ... Rousseau redirects here. ... Revelation of the Last Judgment by Jacob de Backer Revelation is an uncovering or disclosure via communication from the divine of something that has been partially or wholly hidden or unknown, which could not be known apart from the unveiling (Goswiller 1987 p. ... This article is about the physical universe. ... For other uses, see Reality (disambiguation). ...


Moral relativism rejects the idea of an objective morality, but its proponents do not all agree as to the nature of morality.


Descriptive relativism

So-called descriptive relativists (for example, Ralph Barton Perry [1876 - 1957]) accept the existence of fundamental disagreements about the right course of action even when the same facts obtain and the same consequences seem likely to arise. However, the descriptive relativist does not necessarily deny the existence of a single correct moral appraisal, given the same set of circumstances. Other descriptivists believe that opposing moral beliefs can both hold true simultaneously, though their critics point out that this leads to obvious logical problems. The later descriptivists (for example, several leading Existentialists) regard morality as entirely subjective and personal, and beyond the judgment of others. In this view moral judgments resemble aesthetic considerations and remain resistant to rational analysis. Ralph Barton Perry (1876-1957) American philosopher, Perry studied Kant, wrote a biography of William James, and proceeded to a revision of his critical approach to natural knowledge. ... Existentialism is a philosophical movement emphasizing individualism, individual freedom, and subjectivity. ...


Meta-ethical relativism

Meta-ethical relativists maintain that all moral judgments have their origins either in societal or in individual standards, and that no single objective standard exists by which one can assess the truth of a moral proposition. While he preferred to deal with more practical real-life ethical matters, the British philosopher Bernard Williams (1929 – 2003) reluctantly came to this conclusion when he wrote from a meta-ethical standpoint. Meta-ethical relativists, in general, believe that the descriptive properties of terms such as "good", "bad", "right", and "wrong" do not stand subject to universal truth conditions, but only to societal convention and personal preference. Given the same set of verifiable facts, some societies or individuals will have a fundamental disagreement about what one ought to do based on societal or individual norms, and one cannot adjudicate these using some independent standard of evaluation. The latter standard will always be societal or personal and not universal, unlike, for example, the scientific standards for assessing temperature or for determining mathematical truths. In philosophy, meta-ethics or analytic ethics [1] is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, and ethical statements, attitudes, and judgments. ... For other meanings of this phrase (book and album titles etc. ... Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (September 21, 1929 – June 10, 2003) was a British philosopher, widely cited as the most important British moral philosopher of his time. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, François Lemoyne, 1737 For other uses, see Truth (disambiguation). ... It has been suggested that Convention (norm) be merged into this article or section. ... Thermodynamic temperature is the absolute measure of temperature and is one of the principal parameters of thermodynamics. ... Proof theory is a branch of mathematical logic that represents proofs as formal mathematical objects, facilitating their analysis by mathematical techniques. ...


Some philosophers maintain that moral relativism dissolves into emotivism, the movement inspired by logical positivists in the early part of the 20th century. (Leading exponents of logical positivism include Rudolph Carnap (1891 – 1970) and A. J. Ayer (1910 – 1989).) Going beyond Hume, positivists regard a proposition as meaningful only if one can verify it by logical or scientific inquiry. Thus metaphysical propositions, which one cannot verify in this manner, are not simply incorrect, they are meaningless, nonsensical. Moral judgments are primarily expressions of emotional preferences or states, devoid of cognitive content; consequently, they are not subject to verification. As such, moral propositions are essentially meaningless utterances or, at best, express personal attitudes (see, for example, Charles L. Stevenson [1908–1979]). Not all relativists would regard moral propositions as meaningless; indeed, many make any number of assertions about morality, assertions that they undoubtedly believe meaningful. However, other philosophers have argued that, since we have no means of analyzing a moral proposition, it is essentially meaningless, and (in their view) relativism is therefore tantamount to emotivism. The proposition that one cannot verify moral judgement by empirical means (and that it remains therefore meaningless) presents, according to many philosophers, a self-contradiction. In this view, the statement, "X is meaningless if it isn't subject to verification" cannot be verified by the very criterion set forth by the proposition.


Karl Marx

Some have linked Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) with a type of moral relativism. He asserted that each society's moral system simply came about as a product of its mode of production and of its class structure. He believed that the interests of the ruling socioeconomic class would prevail as a society's dominant moral system. How Marx viewed this sociological morality remains the subject of debate. Some argue he had a historicist view that the movement of history would bring society to a true, final form of morality. Others believe that Marx did not put much weight behind societal morality and that he used other moral standards. Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a 19th century philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary. ... In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production (in German: Produktionsweise, meaning the way of producing) is a specific combination of: productive forces: these include human labor-power, tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land social and technical relations... ... Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. ... For historicism as a method of interpreting biblical apocalypse, see Historicism (Christian eschatology). ...


Friedrich Nietzsche

Main article: Perspectivism

Friedrich Nietzsche identified morality as an error, introduced to human thought through Plato's prioritization of transcendence as the Forms. The Platonist view holds that what is 'true', or most real, is something which is other-wordly and can never properly be known, while the (real) world of experience becomes a mere 'shadow' of perfection, most famously expressed in Plato's analogy of the cave. This transcendence also had a parallel growth in Judaism, which prioritized life-denying moral qualtities such as humility, obedience, goodness, and maintained through the church, which in Nietzsche's conception follows organically from Judaism. He saw his life-long task, the revaluing of all values, as rescuing mankind from these errors. He envisioned a future where individuals acted naturally, using their full natural potential or will to power. He believed that mankind would progress and fulfil this potential only by starting to act naturally and instinctively according to each individual's desires and drives. The Übermensch would represent the strong, powerful, natural and happy outcome. Happiness would naturally emerge, defined as "the feeling that power increases, that a resistance is overcome". Nietzsche wanted to prepare the soil for mankind's growth by "re-naturalising" human drives. Once we become free of morality (and, by association, of religion) he believed that the coming generations would grow unpolluted, free and strong. (See Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, etc.) Perspectivism is the philosophical view that all perception takes place from a specific perspective. ... Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) (IPA: ) was a nineteenth-century German philosopher. ... In meta-ethics, moral skepticism is the view that there are no objective truths in morality. ... Transcendence may refer to: Transcendence (mathematics) Transcendental number, a real number that is not the root of any polynomial with rational coefficients Transcendental element, an element of a field extension that is not the root of any polynomial with coefficients from the base field Transcendental function, a function which does... The allegory of the cave is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in The Republic. ... Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations · Other religions Ecumenism · Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Important figures Apostle Paul · Church Fathers Constantine · Athanasius · Augustine Anselm · Aquinas · Palamas · Luther Calvin · Wesley Arius · Marcion of Sinope Archbishop of Canterbury · Catholic Pope Coptic Pope · Ecumenical Patriarch Christianity Portal This box:      Christianity is... The will to power (German: Der Wille zur Macht) is a concept prominent in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. ... The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ... Beyond Good and Evil (German: Jenseits von Gut und Böse), subtitled Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft), is a book by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886. ... On the Genealogy of Morals (German: Zur Genealogie der Moral), subtitled A Polemic (Eine Streitschrift), is a work by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed and first published in 1887. ... The Twilight of the Idols (Götzen-Dämmerung) is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche, written in 1888, and published in 1889. ... The Antichrist (German: Der Antichrist) is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1895. ...


Debate on moral relativism

Image File history File links Question_book-3. ...

Other cultures

Those who support positions of absolutism often criticize moral relativism; sometimes equating it with "immorality" or amorality. They argue that various historical and cultural events and practices (including the Holocaust, Stalinism, Apartheid in South Africa, genocide, unjust wars, genital mutilation, slavery, terrorism, Nazism, etc.) present difficult problems for relativists, because these acts, which are condemned by the "majority of people" everywhere, are not absolutely "bad" from a relativist perspective. This is, in fact, exactly what moral relativism states, and there is no self-contradiction in it. But what the objectivist is pointing to is the contradiction he sees between moral relativism and the wrongness of the Holocaust, which he takes to be indisputable. The relativist, in turn, can stick to his ground and insist that the Holocaust was not absolutely wrong, and that it is a matter of opinion. The argument cannot be resolved by straightforward logic, since each party makes assumptions the other does not share, employing different axioms. However, the validity of an assumption or axiom can itself be questioned. The point of the Holocaust argument is to urge the rightness or wrongness of some ethical claims as being more self-evident, and therefore more properly axiomatic, than the meta-ethical assumptions of relativism. Self-evidence can be criticized as somewhat subjective, but it is nonetheless widely used to select axioms in areas like mathematics or logic. It never is right or wrong. Moral absolutism is the belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act. ... Morality is a complex of principles based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs, by which an individual determines whether his or her actions are right or wrong. ... See also Morality and Ethics. ... “Shoah” redirects here. ... For architecture, see Stalinist architecture. ... A segregated beach in South Africa, 1982. ... For other uses, see Genocide (disambiguation). ... Just War theory is the attempt to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces. ... Circumcision is the removal of some or all of the prepuce (foreskin). ... Slave redirects here. ... Terrorist redirects here. ... Nazism in history Nazi ideology Nazism and race Outside Germany Related subjects Lists Politics Portal         Nazism or National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), refers primarily to the ideology and practices of the Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers Party, German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) under Adolf Hitler. ... Logic (from Classical Greek λόγος logos; meaning word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason, or principle) is the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration. ... For the algebra software named Axiom, see Axiom computer algebra system. ... In epistemology, a self-evident proposition is one that can be understood only by one who knows that it is true. ...


Consequences

Some moral absolutists criticize moral relativism on the grounds that it may lead to what they would describe as "immoral acts" because it abandons an absolute standard of "right and wrong". This is a criticism directed against the consequences of relativism, and not against its truth. A common counter-criticism is that moral absolutism is as likely or more likely to lead to such "immoral acts" since a belief in absolute "right and wrong" can potentially be used to justify any number of acts that might generally be considered to be "atrocities". But by whose standards? If absolutism is correct as a meta-ethical stance, and if the absolutist has hit on the correct ethics, then what they do will ipso facto be morally right; so the counter-criticism must assume that the absolutist is wrong, at least about ethics; or, perhaps that the absolutism as a meta-ethical position would lead people to be over-confident about whether their ethical beliefs are actually true.


Absolutism per se does not entitle people to impose their beliefs on others; that may or may not be an objectively justifiable moral principle. Moreover, since absolutists believe there is only one correct set of moral principles, they must, if they are sincere, be careful in selecting what they are. Absolutism as a meta-ethical claim does not therefore constitute a rubber-stamp for approving or imposing any prevailing moral code. An absolutist who attempts that kind of manoeuvre may well be in the wrong — even objectively in the wrong — by their own standards.


Relativists are required to relativistically justify prevailing (personal or social) standards, but only within their context.


Defending relativism

Another critique of moral relativism which falls into this category postulates that anyone who claims that no moral absolutes exist undermines their ability to justify their own existence. According to this argument, if a moral relativist is intellectually honest, they have no right to claim that they should remain unharmed by other individuals who adhere to a subjectively determined or culturally-bound moral theory which does not regard causing harm to others, or at least moral relativists, as wrong. In this sense, it is difficult for a moral relativist to hold that they have a right to exist (and in doing so, formulate their own set of moral values) in the first place. Just as they are unable to argue that slavery, the Holocaust, etc. are ultimately immoral, moral relativists are unable to argue that the discontinuation of their own lives at the hands of another individual (who adheres to a different set of values) would be ultimately immoral, either. They can claim that it is wrong in the sense of being against their moral code, but what is important here is the behaviour of the attacker; there is no reason why their attacker should be swayed by someone else's personal or cultural beliefs. In this sense, it is argued, moral relativism suffers from its inability to defend itself. While this argument may not be compelling, it certainly shows some of the inherent shortcomings of the relativist philosophy.


Intervention and inaction

A related criticism, in the sense that it essentially attacks relativism for being too weak, is that relativists cannot justify intervening in other cultures' practices, since that would be "to impose their own morality". In fact, this objection cannot be applied to all relativists, since not all hold non-imposition as a basic tenet. (Likewise, not all absolutists reject the principle. There is no obvious contradiction in the claim that "it is absolutely wrong to impose one's morality on others"). However, those who do hold to non-intervention as a primary virtue have to accept the criticism that they may be culpably unwilling to resist evil in some cases — cases which moral absolutists would call evil, and which they too might call evil if it occurred in their own society, assuming said absolutists don't hold a similar non-interventionist ethic.


Argument from intolerance

A further counter-criticism might be that moral absolutism is as likely or more likely to lead to such "immoral acts" since a belief in absolute "right and wrong" can potentially be used to justify any number of acts that might generally be considered to be "atrocities". For example, many people were burned to death in Europe during the second millennium simply because they disbelieved in the religion of the prevailing monarch, and this disbelief was held to be absolutely wrong and deserving of execution; few people today would accept this as being correct, and this fact supports the argument that it is difficult to demonstrate that the consequences of believing in moral absolutism or objectivism are necessarily less "immoral" than the consequences of believing in moral relativism.


However, this line of argument needs to show that moral objectivists necessarily hold that they have the right to impose their views on others. There is no obvious reason why this should be the case. It is quite conceivable that they could hold the opposite to be the case — that it is objectively wrong to impose one's morality on others. A moral objectivist who is only interested in defending objectivism as a meta-ethical position could simply choose to favor tolerance in order to evade the criticism. One could also argue that any position of tolerance for 'what is wrong' from the point of view of objectivism is simply moral weakness, assuming that objectivism really does require, or, at least, justify the imposition of one person's ethical principles on another.


Moral improvement and innovation

Many people in other times and places thought slavery, for example, acceptable, even good; while most today view it as a great evil. Many writers and thinkers have held that one can justify any number of evils based on subjective or cultural preferences, and that morality requires some universal standard against which to measure ethical judgments. A moral relativist might respond that this criticism is only valid if one already accepts that such acts are indeed fundamentally evil - a position which the moral relativist would deny - and that the objection is therefore nothing other than an uncritical statement that morals are in fact absolute. 2007 is a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Moral absolutism is the belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act. ...


However, if it is their society that has, for instance, rejected slavery, they presumably agree that it is wrong, at least if they are cultural relativists. This presents a meta-ethical problem in explaining what happens when a society has a collective change of heart. Consider the case of someone who has minority moral views within their society, and yet is vindicated (even relativistically) by future developments. If "right" and "wrong" literally mean "what my society accepts/rejects" then a social moral relativist in a slave-owning society of the past who says "slavery is wrong" is effectively saying "slavery is not approved of by my society", which is false — factually false. Yet, the relativist of the present is committed to agreeing with the relativist of the past, since they both oppose slavery.


The argument was phrased in terms of cultural relativism, but a similar argument applies to subjectivism. It is difficult for a moral subjectivist to claim that they have undergone any personal moral improvement, or that an attitude they used to hold was wrong, when it was obviously what they felt was right at the time. For them, there is no external standard to judge against, so while their attitudes change, they cannot be said to improve or decline. It therefore seems that there is a difference in what can be expressed or justified between an objectivist and a relativist, although whether it involves the loss of anything worthwhile is open to debate.


A personal moral relativist can however reassess previous decisions based on new knowledge or circumstance and realign their moral choices accordingly, achieving subjective improvements in the process, such as less ambiguity, or less contradiction in their morals. But these are of course value judgements which will be made in the light of the individuals present preferences. Thus there is a circularity on the process of judging ones values according to ones values. These criteria for improvement need not be held as universal "goals", but merely as "good" or "right" for the moral relativist alone — or, rather, good and right for the individual and by their current thinking.


Drawing boundaries

There are also difficulties in putting a boundary upon "society" or "culture" - what people feel to be their social or cultural groupings may well not align with legal and national groupings. The person holding "minority moral views within their society" may consider their "culture" more aligned with that minority than with the larger state or national society which determines what is lawfully acceptable. This can be seen, for instance, where religious communities within a nation or state hold views on the morality of issues such as abortion or homosexuality which differ from the current legal position on those issues. This flexibility could lead to the objection that cultural moral relativism is "anything goes", since one could find — or found — a society that condones whatever one wishes to do.


The equivalent of such gerrymandering in subjective or personal moral relativism would be for an individual to adopt different principles at different times, which would lead to a very acute form of "anything goes", unless forestalled by a meta-ethical principles that individuals need to be self-consistent. It could be argued that jumping ship in this way is dishonest, but the ethical acceptability of honesty is presumably as relative as anything else if relativism is true. This makes relativism more complicated and difficult to navigate, but one could just as well argue that the drawing of immovable boundaries is oversimplistic and not reflective of reality. Elections Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      The Gerry-Mander first appeared in this cartoon-map in the Boston Gazette, 26 March 1812 Gerrymandering is a form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage. ...


Meta-ethics

Some relativists regard this as an unfair criticism of relativism; they argue that this approach actually becomes a descriptive, or meta-ethical, theory and not a normative one; and that relativists may have strong moral beliefs, notwithstanding their foundational position. Critics of this view, however, see it as disingenuous, and argue that the relativists do not merely make meta-ethical observations. These critics contend that stating there is no preferred standard of truth, or that standards are equally true, addresses the ultimate validity and truth of the ethical judgments themselves, which, they contend, consists of a normative judgment. In other words, the separation between meta-ethics and normative ethics arguably becomes a distinction without a difference. Relativists, however, would regard the notion that no preferred standard of truth exists as a straw man argument. Richard Rorty (1931 - 2007), for example, argued that relativist philosophers believe "that the grounds for choosing between such opinions is less algorithmic than had been thought", but not that any belief is equally as valid as any other.[1] In linguistics, prescription is the laying down or prescribing of normative rules for a language. ... In philosophy, meta-ethics or analytic ethics [1] is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, and ethical statements, attitudes, and judgments. ... In philosophy, normative is usually contrasted with positive, descriptive or explanatory when describing types of theories, beliefs, or statements. ... For Pierre Bourdieus book Distinction see La distinction. ... Difference is the contrary of equality, in particular of objects. ... A straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponents position. ... Richard McKay Rorty (October 4, 1931 in New York City – June 8, 2007) was an American philosopher. ...


R. M. Hare

Some philosophers, for example R. M. Hare (19192002), argue that moral propositions remain subject to human logical rules, notwithstanding the absence of any factual content, including those subject to cultural or religious standards or norms. Thus, for example, they contend that one cannot hold contradictory ethical judgments. This allows for moral discourse with shared standards, notwithstanding the descriptive properties or truth conditions of moral terms. They do not affirm or deny that moral facts exist, only that human logic applies to our moral assertions; consequently, they postulate an objective and preferred standard of moral justification, albeit in a very limited sense. Nevertheless, according to Hare, human logic shows the error of relativism in one very important sense (see Hare's Sorting out Ethics). Hare and other philosophers also point out that, aside from logical constraints, all systems treat certain moral terms alike in an evaluative sense. This parallels our treatment of other terms such as less or more, which meet with universal understanding and do not depend upon independent standards (for example, one can convert measurements). It applies to good and bad when used in their non-moral sense, too; for example, when we say, "this is a good wrench" or "this is a bad wheel". This evaluative property of certain terms also allows people of different beliefs to have meaningful discussions on moral questions, even though they may disagree about certain "facts". R.M. Hare Richard Mervyn Hare (March 21, 1919 – January 29, 2002) was an English moral philosopher, who held the post of Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford from 1966 until 1983. ... Year 1919 (MCMXIX) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar). ... Also see: 2002 (number). ... Discourse is a term used in semantics as in discourse analysis, but it also refers to a social conception of discourse, often linked with the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jürgen Habermas The Theory of Communicative Action (1985). ... In semantics, truth conditions are what obtain precisely when a sentence is true. ...


Is relativism really nihilism?

Another family of criticisms aim to show that relativism is not really a positive moral theory at all: that it falls short of certain criteria its proponents believe any moral theory must fulfill. These criteria may include:

  • Any moral theory should be normative. Descriptive relativism is not normative, so it is not a normative moral theory (other than an error theory).
  • Morality, whatever it is, is thought to be something different from law and custom. Cultural moral relativism holds that it is exactly societal custom, and is therefore a reduction amounting to elimination.
  • Morality, whatever it is, is thought to be something different from personal taste and preference. Subjectivism holds that it is exactly personal taste and preference, and is therefore a reduction amounting to elimination.

The essence of the criticism is that moral relativism is "really" moral nihilism or an error theory. As such, it may in fact be correct — the arguments do not tell us that it is not — but this criticism argues that it is being misrepresented as a positive theory. In philosophy, normative is usually contrasted with positive, descriptive or explanatory when describing types of theories, beliefs, or statements. ... In meta-ethics, moral skepticism is the view that there are no objective truths in morality. ... Descartes held that non-human animals could be reductively explained as automata — De homines 1622. ... Descartes held that non-human animals could be reductively explained as automata — De homines 1622. ... Moral nihilism is the meta-ethical view that normative, moral statements are false. ... In meta-ethics, moral skepticism is the view that there are no objective truths in morality. ...


Normative moral relativism

One might argue that if one assumed the complete truth of relativism — epistemologically as well as in the moral sphere — one would have no reason to prefer it over any other theory, given its fundamental contention that no preferred standard of truth exists. With this objective view of relativism it obviously becomes not simply a meta-ethical theory, but a normative one, and its truth — by its own definition — remains (in the final objective analysis) outside assessment or beyond weighing against other theories. Relativism and objectivism thus can become the opposite sides of an argument about the existence (or not) of objective truth. Critics of this view assert that this argument places the burden of proof on relativism, by treating it as a theory that makes the positive existential claim "it is objectively true that there are no objective truths" (a claim no relativist would really make) as opposed to simply being the necessary consequence of a refusal to accept the objectivist's claim "there are objective truths". They argue that this objection can claim only to have defeated a rather singular version of relativism (singular in that it transparently appeals to an objective truth that it purports to deny). Relativism shows that words like 'absolute' and 'objective' have little meaning with regards to experienced reality. Criticisms of this are generally based on linguistic or semantic errors, rather than real philosophical issues.


Religious critiques of moral relativism

The findings of moral relativism inevitably conflict with tenets of absolute morality as taught by almost all world religions.


Roman Catholicism

Catholic and some secular intellectuals attribute the perceived post-war decadence of Europe to the displacement of absolute values by moral relativism. Pope Benedict XVI, Marcello Pera and others have argued that after about 1960 Europeans massively abandoned many traditional norms rooted in Christianity and replaced them with continuously-evolving relative moral rules. In this view, sexual activity has become separated from procreation, which led to a decline in the importance of families and to depopulation. Currently, Europe faces challenges from recent immigrants who brought with them absolute values which stand at odds with moral relativism.[2] The most authoritative doctrinal response to moral relativism from the Roman Catholic point of view can be found in Veritatis Splendor, an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Papal Arms of Pope Benedict XVI. The papal tiara was replaced with a bishops mitre, and pallium of the Pope was added beneath the coat of arms. ... Marcello Pera (born in Lucca on January 28, 1943) is an Italian philosopher and politician. ... Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations · Other religions Ecumenism · Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Important figures Apostle Paul · Church Fathers Constantine · Athanasius · Augustine Anselm · Aquinas · Palamas · Luther Calvin · Wesley Arius · Marcion of Sinope Archbishop of Canterbury · Catholic Pope Coptic Pope · Ecumenical Patriarch Christianity Portal This box:      Christianity is... This article is about sexual practices (i. ... Look up Family in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Sub-replacement fertility is a fertility rate that is not high enough to replace an areas population. ...


Buddhism

Bhikkhu Bodhi, an American Buddhist monk, wrote: To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... A replica of an ancient statue found among the ruins of a temple at Sarnath Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, a prince of the Shakyas, whose lifetime is traditionally given as 566 to 486 BCE. It had subsequently been accepted by...

“By assigning value and spiritual ideals to private subjectivity, the materialistic world view, threatens to undermine any secure objective foundation for morality. The result is the widespread moral degeneration that we witness today. To counter this tendency, mere moral exhortation is insufficient. If morality is to function as an efficient guide to conduct, it cannot be propounded as a self-justifying scheme but must be embedded in a more comprehensive spiritual system which grounds morality in a transpersonal order. Religion must affirm, in the clearest terms, that morality and ethical values are not mere decorative frills of personal opinion, not subjective superstructure, but intrinsic laws of the cosmos built into the heart of reality.”[3]

See also

Analytic philosophy (sometimes, analytical philosophy) is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century. ... Anthropology (from Greek: ἀνθρωπος, anthropos, human being; and λόγος, logos, knowledge) is the study of humanity. ... Business ethics is a form of the art of applied ethics that examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment. ... Cultural relativism is the principle that beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture. ... In moral philosophy, deontology is the view that morality either forbids or permits actions, which is done through moral norms. ... Non-cognitivism is the meta-ethical view that ethical statements (such as Killing is wrong) do not assert propositions; that is to say, they do not express factual claims or beliefs and therefore are neither true nor false (they are not truth-apt). ... For other uses, see Ethics (disambiguation). ... Global justice is a concept in political philosophy denoting justice between societies or between individuals in different societies, as opposed to within a specific society. ... Kohlbergs stages of moral development are planes of moral adequacy conceived by Lawrence Kohlberg to explain the development of moral reasoning. ... In philosophy, ethics is commonly divided into two branches, normative ethics and meta-ethics. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Morality. ... Ethical consumerism is the practice of boycotting products which a consumer believes to be associated with unnecessary exploitation or other unethical behaviour. ... Moral universalism is a moral view, often related to humanist philosophy, which claims that the fundamental basis for a universalist ethic—universally applicable to all humanity—can be derived or inferred from what is common among existing moral codes. ... Morality (from the Latin manner, character, proper behavior) has three principal meanings. ... The Moral Zeitgeist is a term used by some atheists to describe the evolution of morality. ... For the physics theory with a similar name, see Theory of Relativity. ... Sexual ethics is a sub-category of ethics that pertain to acts falling within the broad spectrum of human sexual behavior, sexual intercourse in particular. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Situation ethics. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Veritatis Splendor (Latin: The Splendor of Truth) is the name of an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. It expresses the position of the Catholic Church regarding fundamentals of the Churchs role in moral teaching. ... For other uses, see Survival of the fittest (disambiguation). ... Social Darwinism is the idea that Charles Darwins theory can be extended and applied to the social realm, i. ...

References

  1. ^ Rorty, Richard (1982). Consequences of Pragmatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-1064-9. 
  2. ^ Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, Marcello Pera, "Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam" (Basic Books, 0465006345, 2006).
  3. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi, "A Buddhist Response to Contemporary Dilemmas of Human Existence" article link at Access to Insight

Papal Arms of Pope Benedict XVI. The papal tiara was replaced with a bishops mitre, and pallium of the Pope was added beneath the coat of arms. ... Marcello Pera (born in Lucca on January 28, 1943) is an Italian philosopher and politician. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

Bibliography

  • Kurt Baier, "Difficulties in the Emotive-Imperative Theory" in Paul W Taylor (editor): The Moral Judgement: Readings in Contemporary Meta-Ethics Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963
  • Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (Mentor)
  • Panayot Butchvarov, "Skepticism in Ethics" (Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 1989).
  • Ronald F. Duska, "What's the Point of a Business Ethics Course?", 1 Business Ethics Quarterly 335-352(1991), reprinted in Sterling Harwood, ed., Business as Ethical and Business as Usual (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 11-21.
  • R.M. Hare, Sorting out Ethics (Oxford University Press)
  • Gilbert Harman & Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity (Blackwell Publishing), 1996.
  • Sterling Harwood, "Taking Ethics Seriously -- Moral Relativism versus Moral Realism" in Sterling Harwood, ed., Business as Ethical and Business as Usual (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 2-4.
  • Sterling Harwood, "Against MacIntyre's Relativistic Communitarianism" in Sterling Harwood, ed., Business as Ethical and Business as Usual (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 5-10.
  • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, ed. Tom L. Beauchamp (Oxford University Press)
  • G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge University Press)
  • Jean-Paul Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism" in Existentialism From Dostoevsky to Sartre, ed. by Walter Kaufmann (World Publishing Company)
  • Leo Strauss, The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. Thomas L. Pangle (University of Chicago Press)
  • Edward Westermarck, The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas Macmillan, 1906.
  • Bernard Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (Harvard University Press)
  • David B. Wong, Moral Relativity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986), 248 pages.

Kurt Baier (born 1917) is a well-known moral philosopher. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... R.M. Hare Richard Mervyn Hare (March 21, 1919 – January 29, 2002) was an English moral philosopher, who held the post of Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford from 1966 until 1983. ... Oxford University Press (OUP) is a highly-respected publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. ... Gilbert Harman (born 1938) is a contemporary philosopher teaching at Princeton University who has published widely in Ethics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and the philosophies of Language and Mind. ... This article is about the philosopher. ... Oxford University Press (OUP) is a highly-respected publishing house and a department of the University of Oxford in England. ... George Edward Moore George Edward Moore, also known as G.E. Moore, (November 4, 1873 - October 24, 1958) was a distinguished and hugely influential English philosopher who was educated and taught at the University of Cambridge. ... The headquarters of the Cambridge University Press, in Trumpington Street, Cambridge. ... Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980), normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre (pronounced: ), was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. ... Leo Strauss (September 20, 1899 – October 18, 1973), was a German-born Jewish-American political philosopher who specialized in the study of classical political philosophy. ... For other uses, see University of Chicago (disambiguation). ... Edvard Alexander Westermarck (November 20, 1862 - September 3, 1939) was a Finnish philosopher and sociologist. ... Macmillan Publishers Ltd, also known as The Macmillan Group, is a privately-held international publishing company owned by Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. ... Bernard Arthur Owen Williams (September 21, 1929 – June 10, 2003) was a British philosopher, widely cited as the most important British moral philosopher of his time. ... The Harvard University Press is a publishing house, a division of Harvard University, that is highly respected in academic publishing. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Moral relativism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (295 words)
In philosophy, moral relativism takes the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect absolute and universal moral truths but instead exist relative to social, cultural, historical or personal references, and that no single standard exists by which to assess an ethical proposition's truth.
Moral relativism does not equate to moral pluralism, or value pluralism (which acknowledges the co-existence of opposing ideas and practices, but does not require that they be equally valid).
Moral relativism, in contrast, contends that opposing moral positions have no truth-value, and that no preferred standard of reference exists by which to judge them.
Relativism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2477 words)
For them, relativism refers to a methodological stance, in which the researcher suspends (or brackets) his or her own cultural biases while attempting to understand beliefs and behaviors in their local contexts.
One common argument against relativism suggests that it inherently contradicts, refutes, or stultifies itself: the statement "all is relative" classes either as a relative statement or as an absolute one.
Relativism, according to the Catholic and Aristotelian viewpoint, violates the philosophical principle of non-contradiction, a most fundamental principle of all thinking, and without which humans have no way to understand each other nor any possibility of science.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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